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spirit of commerce, and not by that of the most disgraceful monopoly: I must be convinced that it would be conducted by real Merchants, and not by unprincipled Speculators, who create a dearth in the necessaries of life; and I must lastly be convinced, that a total change has taken place in the sentiments and opinions of those who have proved, by their conduct, that they were altogether ignorant of the spirit and principles of free trade, and who seemed to think that it consisted in their exclusive right to exercise a most oppressive tyranny over their Fellow-Countrymen, by increasing, under the pretext of a fictitious scarcity, the price of the primary articles of subsistence.
Until I am satisfied with regard to these important points, I shall continue to think that the measure adopted by the Most Illustrious Senate, had its origin in peremptory necessity, that it has been salutary in its effects, and that it ought to be supported by every one who has the welfare of his Country at heart.
Before I conclude these important Financial matters, which are so intimately connected with your immediate prosperity, permit me, Most Noble Gentlemen, to suggest to you the expediency of appointing a Committee to examine all the subjects I have adverted to, and to make their Report upon them to the Most Noble Assembly.
I am sure that it is not necessary for me to suggest to you the further propriety of selecting for this Committee, those Members of your distinguished Body who are fully conversant with Accounts.
Having now gone over your Financial Affairs, as briefly as possible, I will not anticipate, except in two or three particulars, the Discussions that may take place with regard to the Bills which will be presented to the Most Noble Assembly, in pursuance of the various legislative Resolutions of the Most Illustrious Senate, which have been placed upon
It appears to me that there are several topics connected with these important Resolutions, respecting which it will not be ill-timed to make a few observations in the present stage of the proceedings.
Amongst the Bills which will be presented to you, one of them will be based upon a Resolution of the Most Illustrious Senate of the 17th of September last, by which an additional Duty was imposed upon the exportation of dried Currants, &c.
I cannot entertain the slightest doubt, that the Most Illustrious Senate, in passing such a Resolution, and the distinguished Person charged with the performance of my functions, during my temporary absence, in approving it, were influenced by the purest desire of promoting the interests of the Country, and that they were guided by a perfect acquaintance with the circumstances of the case.
Indeed, the manner in which the measure has operated fully demonstrates the sound judgment of the Persons who dictated it, the exactness of their information, and the just anxiety they felt to promote the interests of these States.
I will, nevertheless, frankly confess to you, that, although I am fully agreed with them as to the propriety of the measure, and the principles which led to its adoption, I am exceedingly averse to the imposition of any new general Tas upon the Population of these States, during the prorogation of Parliament; as it appears to me to be the peculiar Constitutional Privilege of this Most Noble Asseinbly, to have all measures of this nature submitted to it in the first instance,in order that their merits may be fully examined and discussed, that every information may be obtained by the united wisdom of Parliament, and that the Representatives of the People may have full opportunity to express the sentiments of those who sent them to this Assembly.
Occasions may possibly arise in which the obvious advantage of the Public might, without being essentially detrimental to the interests of Individuals, again render such measures expedient and necessary; but I am fully convinced that this mode of taxation is essen. tially opposed to one of your first Constitutional Privileges, and I recommend you to watch all such measures, with a cautious if not with a suspicious or a jealous eye.
One of the most important Bills that will have to be submitted to you, relates to the new Code of Procedure for the Courts of Justice in these States.
The regulations originally embodied in this Procedure were not proposed, under an impression that the system was perfect in itself, and would not require much alteration. The real object contemplated in framing it, independently of the benefits which were expected to result from its adoption, was, that the experience of its operation might enable us to correct its defects; but the fallacious idea was not entertained that a Document of such importance, and embracing interests of so diversified and complicated a nature, would at once be found to be perfect.
We are about to reap the benefits of this experience: the whole Procedure is now undergoing a revision, and in the Bill that will be presented to you, you will find various alterations and amendments introduced, in consequence of the knowledge we have acquired of its practical effects, and the opinions which have been generally expressed
I shall ever be disposed to respect such opinions, and although I cannot promise, upon slight grounds, to relinquish an opinion I have formed when I am once convinced of its correctness, nevertheless every demonstration of public feeling will induce me to re-consider a measure, and to make such alterations in it as may appear to be dictated by a sound and impartial view of the question.
Looking at the Procedure in this point of view, I have no hesitatation in saying, that the Article relating to the Privileged Rents (Rendite Privileggiate) requires re-consideration.
It appears to me, that it carries the liberty of action on the part of Tenants beyond the bounds of equity.
To my opinion, it greatly encroaches upon the indisputable rights of Proprietors of Land, and requires revision as regards the latitude allowed to Tenants, by means of which they evade and resist the just claims of the Landlords, 10 a much greater extent than is permitted, I think, in any other Country, and decidedly more so than in the Dominions of the Sovereign Protector, where the independence and security of Property have been more happily combined than in any otber Country in the World.
It is therefore my intention to propose an amendment to that part of the present Procedure; and, as some time will necessarily elapse before this Bill can be prepared, I must suggest to you the propriety of directing the greatest attention to the subject, in the interim, in order that it may be maturely and impartially considered.
It may also be advisable to modify the Resolution, concerning the interest payable on money, in certain cases; for, although I am an enemy, and a declared enemy, to that usury which amounts to unjustifiable oppression, still circumstances may arise, (and circumstances that peculiarly regard these Islands,) to anticipate which, it is incumbent upon every man of prudence, not to let hisaversion to the general system of usury lead him so far as to deprive the poorer classes of the means of supplying their wants in this respect.
With respect to the other Measures contained in the Legislative Resolutions of the Most Illustrious Senate, which I believe are 26 or 27 in number, Bills relating to each of them will gradually be presented to you; but it may be necessary to observe, that the Most Illustrious Senate may possibly have passed other Resolutions, which, after careful examination, may be ascertained to be of a Legislative nature, and which it may hereafter be requisite to present, in the form of Bills, to this Most Noble Assembly.
If, upon enquiry, it should be found that any such Resolutions have been passed, they shall immediately be submitted to you; it being the uniform desire of the Senate and myself, that all matters which have any reference to Legislation should be duly considered and decided upon by your wisdom and experience.
It only remains for ine to announce to you, Most Noble Gentlemen, certain new Measures for which no provision has been made by any Resolution of the Executive Power, but which appear to me to be deserving of your profound attention, and respecting which I shall probably have occasion to address you in the course of the present Session.
I have already explained to you the absolute necessity of encouraging the general Trade of these States with the neighbouring Nations, and I confess that the Measures adopted, and now in force upon this subject, particularly in this Island, are not only extremely prejudicial to your interests, but destroy any hopes of materially extending your
Commerce. I speak of the preference shewn to the Natives of the Island of Corfu, and of the additional duty imposed upon Foreign Articles when imported by the Merchants of Foreign countries.
The latter Measure is, in my opinion, for many reasons, highly impolitie.
Its tendency is not to increase the Revenue of the Country; for if these Articles are imported as the property of a Merchant of Corfu, the duty imposed upon them as Foreign Merchandize is thereby evaded, and the additional amount of duty lost.
This Measure, therefore, is not only ineffective as a source of Revenue, but is highly pernicious in its operation, as tending to de moralize the People of these States.
It is most unjust and injurious to Foreign Merchants, for it enables their Agents in this Island to debit them with the additional duty, while the Agents defraud the Government of that duty; and it is most detrimental to your commerce in general, because, independently of the particular burthens and losses to which Foreigners are subjected, there can be no greater obstacle to the extension of your Trade than that species of partiality which is contained in the present Law.
It is, therefore, my intention to propose the abolition of this system of discriminating Duties, and to suggest, in its stead, a moderate uniform Duty, common to all the Islands, on articles of Foreign manufacture imported into these States; granting, perhaps, a diminution of such Duty on those articles, when imported in Ionian, British, or Imperial Austrian Vessels.
Connected with this subject is the method hitherto adopted for ocllecting the Public Revenue, by means of what are termed Oral Decla. rations (Abboccamenti.) It is impossible to imagine a System more pernicious than this; a System which has, in fact, operated most injuriously to your general interests. Of this you have bad ample proof in the Transactions of the late Abboccatore of this Island, which presented such a tissue of fraud, deception and flagrant effrontery, in asserting the most false and unfounded pretensions, as I never remember to have before met with in the course of my official experience.
The evils incident to such a practice have had the most injurious effect upon your Revenue, and still more so upon your character; and allow me to observe, Most Noble Gentlemen, that this last point is one which merits the most serious consideration, on the part of a State which aspires to become commercial.
It is my duty to devise a new and more complete method of colJecting the Public Revenue, and, if I may judge from the experience we have had of this method, since my arrival here, I have full conf. dence that the measure will, on the one hand, greatly augment your Revenue, and, on the other, put an end to all the well-founded complaints which have hitherto been made by Foreign Merchants.
During the present Session, I shall probably submit to you the
plan i propose to adopt, with reference to the new organization of the Militia.
I propose to reduce the numbers of this useful Corps considerably below their present standard; and I shall endeavour lo place it upon
such a footing, thatit shall make up, by increased efficiency, for its reduction in number;-to render it; above all, the Force of the State ;-to make its existence and duration dependent upon the State ;—to cause it to regard the State as its sole head and real support;—to convince myself, before I appoint the Officers, that the Militia is complete, (an object which we are now endeavouring to effect ;)—and finally, I propose that the Officers shall all be chosen from amongst those Persons who possess property in the Districts in which the Troops are stationed, and who have the best title to such a distinction by their attachment to the Government of the Country.
Before I conclude, I must add a few words concerning four points, all of which appear to me to be of paramount importance in the advancement of the prosperity of these States;-viz, Religion,—the Sanatory Regulations,—the Judicial Regulations,—and the Education of Youth.
You cannot be ignorant of the peculiar obstacles which prevent the definitive regulation of your Religious Establishment, and that, in order to adjust certain points connected with it, it will be necessary to apply for Foreign aid, and to have recourse to means which are not at the disposal of the Government of this Country. It cannot, therefore, excite surprize, if considerably less progress has been made in this matter than could have been wished, or than the circumstances of the case would appear to demand.
I am happy to inform you, however, that your Most Illustrious and vigilant Senate has not neglected this important branch of its duty, and that it has judiciously appointed, for each of the Islands, a provisional Head of the Church, until definitive Measures upon the subject shall be adopted.
The preparation of a Code of Sanatory Regulations, adapted to our wants,-efficient and at the same time moderate;—and not applicable, as hitherto, to some particular Island, but to all indiscriminately, -is a most difficult operation, and one which demands the deepest consideration.
The duty of preparing such Regulations, by the terms of the Constitutional Charter, devolves upon me, and I have devoted to it the most anxious and serious attention.
I hope that, in the course of a few days, a regular Code for this most important point will be laid before you. In the mean time, you will perceive that the assiduity of your Most Illustrious Senate has been eminently conspicuous upon this subject, it having made temporary Arrangements, which will be found amongst the Legislative Resolutions placed upon your Table.